Sunday, October 4, 2009

Shorty Maynard, Circus Clown, 1882 - 1950

He was born to strict Catholic parents in Manchester, New Hampshire, in 1882 and, at thirteen years of age, was expected to work in a shoe factory for 10 cents a day. At that point, Rudolf E. Pigeon did what most young people only dream of doing: he ran away and joined the circus.
Pigeon began performing with the Menard troupe of acrobats, traveling the East Coast with the Hagenbeck Wallace Circus. In 1906, he moved out West and joined the Sells-Floto Circus, owned by Frederick Bonfils and Harry H. Tammen, co-owners of the Denver Post. Known professionally as Shorty Maynard, Pigeon developed routines that drew on his acrobatic ability and love of animals. The mule hurdle had him riding atop the animal’s head, then hanging on to its tail to be dragged around the sawdust ring several times. Pigeon created an audience favorite with Bill, the Trained Goose, and the duo performed tricks for a dozen seasons.
During the off-season, performers found other jobs and pursued other interests. For
Pigeon, that interest was Ada Morgan, and they were married on December 28, 1912. By the time Pigeon joined the Ringling Brothers-Barnum and Baily Circus in 1916, he and Ada had started a family.
After years of
circus life and travel, an exhausted Pigeon retired in 1920. He operated John’s Pool Hall in Sterling, which became a casualty of the farm recession after World War I. Pigeon then moved his family to Globeville and sought out his old friend Harry Tammen, who arranged a a job for him with Swift and Company. He worked there for more than twenty years.
Daughter Carol Christensen recalls, “I remember my dad walking across that bridge at 46th Avenue every morning at 5 am to go to work in the packinghouse. He didn’t make much money, but we always paid our bills on time.”
Pigeon lived quietly with his wife Ada, daughters Florence and Carol, and son Charles in  Globeville, where he died on August 14, 1950 of heart failure.
The man who had
dedicated his life to making people laugh would be pleased to know that he is still entertaining crowds. His gravestone, Block 13, Lot 9, at Denver's Riverside Cemetery is engraved with his image as a clown, and is a popular destination on tours.

Photo courtesy of Carol Christensen 
Photo ® Mary Lou Egan


~Shari said...

Ada and Rudolph were married 28 Dec 1912. Their first child was born in July 1914, probably while Rudolph was on the road as he was in Sioux Falls on July 4th of that year with Sells-Floto and went on to Minneapolis, St. Paul and then into Canada (New York Clipper, July 25, 1914).

Based on articles appearing in the New York Clipper and Billboard, he was still working as late as 1915. A Clipper article dated November 6, 1915 reads: . Shorty Maynard's goose, "Bill," is entering his sixteenth year as a trouper. He was with Ringling Brothers at that time.

Mary Lou Egan said...

Thank you for this information! I received my information about Shorty Maynard from his daughter Carol (along with the snapshot of Rudolf in his garden.
Thank you again.
Mary Lou